I was intrigued by a reference to ‘salt-rising bread’ in The Manual of Home-making, (1919) by a trio of American experts, Martha van Rensselear, Flora Rose, and Helen Canon. This is what they have to say on the topic.
An old fashioned bread, the making of which is almost a lost art today, is called salt-rising bread. No yeast is used. Gas from a certain type of bacteria found in cornmeal is the leavening agent. Dough made from freshly ground cornmeal rises much more rapidly than that from old cornmeal; in fact, failure generally results unless fresh cornmeal is used.
The bread is handled in the same way as yeast-raised bread, except that the entire process can be carried on at a somewhat higher temperature than is possible with yeast bread.
The odor of salt-rising bread during fermentation and proofing is characteristic. No other dough is like it.
Salt-rising bread is finer in texture than yeast bread, and some persons believe it is more easily digested.
Recipe for salt-rising bread (3 loaves)
(1) In the evening make a mush of 2 tablespoons of cornmeal and about ½ cup of scalded milk. Keep it in a warm place overnight.
(2) In the morning mix together 1 cup lukewarm water, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon soda, 1 ½ cups flour, cornmeal mush.
(3) Cover the mixture, and place the dish in warm water until the mixture is light.
(4) To 2 cups lukewarmwater add 2 teaspoons of salt and 3 cups of flour. Add to this the cornmeal leavening mixture. Allow the mixture to rise until it is light. Then add sufficient flour to make a dough. Knead it until it is smooth, make it into loaves, place in tins, and allow it to rise until it is double in bulk. Bake it according to the general directions.
There are variations on this theme in other books; some use all wheat flour, some use boiling water, some have other minor variations, but they all include the first step of making a batter or wet dough and leaving it to its own devices overnight. No baker’s yeast is added to the dough, that is true enough, but the bread is not yeastless, it is leavened by the action of natural yeasts and bacteria which have been happily cultivated in the warmth of the kitchen.
I have two questions of you. Is the making of this bread really a lost art? And why is it called salt-raised?
Quotation for the Day.
Of all smells, bread; of all tastes salt.George Herbert